In 2013, Ziontz Chestnut commemorated 50 years of service at the home of Steve and Evie Chestnut. We celebrated the many achievements of the firm, the dedicated attorneys who have made their careers here, the meaningful and long-standing relationships we have enjoyed with many of our clients, and the bright future that our attorneys - past and present - ensure for the firm. We acknowledge here four former partners who made outsized contributions to the firm as it exists today.
Al Ziontz founded the firm in 1963 in downtown Seattle and soon began an Indian law practice that has risen to national prominence. Thanks to Al’s foresight, the firm has successfully assisted Tribes across the United States. Perhaps Al’s most notable achievement in the Northwest was his role as the tribes’ lead trial attorney in the landmark treaty fishing rights case United States v. Washington. Al retired in 1995, but has continued to maintain close ties to the firm. He recounted the firm’s history and many of its experiences representing Indian tribes in his book, A Lawyer in Indian Country, published in 2009.
Steve Chestnut joined the firm in 1972. He became prominent representing tribes in Montana, Nevada and Washington, and was known for tenacious and zealous advocacy. He prevailed before the United States Supreme Court in Northern Cheyenne Tribe v. Hollowbreast, securing tribal ownership of the mineral estate underlying the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, negotiated path-breaking minerals agreements and other complex commercial transactions, and secured major federal legislation on behalf of his tribal clients. Steve passed away in 2013, after devoting over 40 years to the firm and its tribal clients.
Jim Varnell joined the firm in 1979. He had a diverse practice of non-Indian clients and was the firm’s go-to person for insight into areas of law the attorneys representing tribes did not regularly encounter (as well as country-and-western music). Jim served as the firm’s managing partner until he retired from the firm in 2013.
John Arum joined the firm fresh out of law school in 1990. He raised the firm’s profile in environmental and water law, representing environmental organizations, concerned citizens and Indian tribes in many battles to protect air, water and other natural resources, often pro bono. John was a passionate outdoorsman, and was widely admired for his wisdom and advocacy until his untimely death in a mountaineering accident in 2010.